We’ve always enjoyed an overnighter at Linthwaite – even the time we got snowed in. And, on this trip, we’d scored a 40% discount on the deal. Which was nice.
Food has always been pretty decent – in the way that food at a country house hotel can be pretty decent. You know – perfectly enjoyable food but nothing that’s going to set things alight. And so it was on this trip. But what was going to let things down somewhat were the inordinate delays between each course. Oh, and the menu description that says you’re getting four courses. Which you are if you’re a customer who counts the amuse bouche as a course. I’m not.
Order are taken in the lounge, where you’ve been served an aperitif and given some canapés (can’t recall the details but they were pleasant enough. You’re then moved through to the dining room – good decoration, nice linen, an offer of tap water, attentive and friendly East European staff. There’s good bread – one with paprika, a rye and a fruit one. We’d scoffed half of it before the amuse arrived – a comforting coffee cup’s worth of leek and potato soup. The best part of half an hour then passed before the starters arrived. It wasn’t just us – you could see other tables not getting fed as well. And it wasn’t as though the place was packed.
Well, the starters read better than they ate. There was a “char-grilled breast of pigeon, sweetcorn granola, poached blue berries”. There was certainly pigeon, nicely rare, served at room temperature – heaven knows if that was what was intended, as everything else was also at room temperature. And, when I say everything else, I mean a little sweetcorn and a few blueberries. It was a bit odd.
There was an odd “room temperature” thing going on with the other starter. You’d have expected tempura soft shell crab to be hot and crispy. It wasn’t – on either account. Much better was the dressed crab, sitting alongside – nice fresh tasting seafood with a zing from lemon grass and a little pile of shredded and dressed raw butternut squash.
For mains, there were poached fillets of sole. Delicately flavoured as you’d expect. Alongside, a creamy risotto was fine but needed the textual contrast from some chopped walnuts. A sprinkling of caviar added nothing by way of flavour but did add some colour to a plate that, otherwise, was all “soft and white”.
Lamb loin was nicely pink and worked well with the root vegetables which, I thought, had been given good treatment by the kitchen – roasted turnips and a swede puree.
Cheeseboard was a disappointing selection. Not for the actual cheese, as such, but for the fact that there were no local ones on offer. And, by “local”, I mean northern. Two from Sussex, one from Cornwall and a Stilton. Still, they were served with care – not the slightest bit fridge cold and with good homemade crackers, a fruit chutney and a fruit loaf.
Perhaps the best thing I ate was my dessert. A cylinder of dark chocolate stuffed with ganache was a bang-on richness that I sometimes crave at the end of a meal. It contrasted well with orange ice-cream and a smear of an orange flavoured marshmallow, topped with almond brittle.
And I must mention the breakfast which is as fine an example of the “Full English” as you’re likely to want to come across.